The adaptation, so faithful to the book, scores a bull's-eye with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the strong, loyal, resourceful, rebellious and, when the occasion calls for it, wily teen archer.
The movie is, deservedly, rated PG-13, and the subject matter is just as disturbing on screen as on the page, with brief shots of dying children and dead bodies along with blood-stained bricks, arrows, spears and knives; killer wasps finding their marks; and one savage girl chanting, "Kill her ... kill her!"
"The Hunger Games" is set in a future where the ruins of North America are now a place called Panem, which is divided into 12 enslaved districts, and as "penance" for a long-ago uprising, each must choose one girl and one boy age 12-18 to fight to the death in the ultimate version of a TV reality show.
Kids killing kids for someone's twisted idea of intimidation and festive entertainment? What could be more diabolical than that?
When the name of Katniss' little sister, Primrose, is drawn in a perverse lottery, the stunned teen volunteers to take her place in the Hunger Games. That is how she finds herself, with baker's son Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), being transported by high-speed train to the Capitol to prepare for the contest.
Although they're being set up for slaughter, they initially are treated like hopefuls on "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" or some sort of extreme makeover show.
Katniss and Peeta get a stylist in Cinna (Lenny Kravitz with a hint of gold eyeliner), a mentor in former winner and avid alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson in chin-length blond locks), and an escort in overdressed, overcoiffed and overly made up Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks).
Anyone who watches reality, news or entertainment television will recognize the origins of the unctuous, smiling (with fake white choppers) official Hunger Games interviewer played by a blue-haired Stanley Tucci.
Once the games begin in a forested outdoor arena, the death toll mounts, and only one tribute, as the players are called, will be left standing.
The movie, written by director Gary Ross along with novelist Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray, smoothly transports moviegoers to coal country, the futuristic Capitol and the perilous forest, but it doesn't wring the last drop of suspense and emotion out of the story as the novel does.
The two-disc Blu-ray and two-disc DVD ($39.99 and $30.98, respectively) arrive with more than three hours of bonus materials, including the comprehensive eight-part documentary, "The World Is Watching: Making of The Hunger Games," a conversation with director Ross, and featurettes on the global success of the books, the creation of the control room, and the new scenes created for the movie. The Blu-ray set contains the additional feature "Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process," which looks at the progression of taking three key scenes from the book to the screen.
It arrives on video at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Once a decade or so, audiences are pleasantly surprised by a martial arts film that legitimately could be described as a classic in the genre. "The Raid: Redemption," directed by Gareth Huw Evans, is a film that will be talked about by his fellow directors for years.
Where Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" repackaged martial arts violence as a tasteful visual ballet, Mr. Evans presents warriors in the grimiest, least glamorous light possible. Eschewing wires and camera tricks that hamper realism, Mr. Evans strives for a brutal naturalism enhanced by hand-held cameras and brilliantly executed choreography.
Pencak Silat, an Indonesian martial art that is similar to Muay Thai, except dirtier and far more devastating, is the unacknowledged star of the film. Actor Iko Uwais is the face that will generate a lot of global interest in Indonesian martial arts in the coming years.
In "The Raid: Redemption," Mr. Uwais plays Rama, a rookie special forces soldier in Jakarta who is part of an ill-fated raid of a 15-story building run by Tama (Ray Sahetapy), a ruthless crime lord. Tama has been untouchable by cops or rival gangs for years because he has established a network of loyal defenders on every floor willing to die for him. Tama also is protected by a human fighting machine known as Mad Dog, played by Yayan Ruhian, one of the film's three fight choreographers.
"The Raid" is relentless in its depiction of hand-to-hand carnage, much of it involving knives or other improvised cutting implements. It isn't Shakespeare, but it is a masterpiece of ultra violence that brilliantly showcases the possibilities of a genre that continues to inspire moviemakers and audiences more than three decades after the death of Bruce Lee.
TV on DVD
Before there was "Downton Abbey" -- and about three decades after the original "Upstairs Downstairs" --- there was "The Forsyte Saga," which aired in two cycles on PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" in 2002 and 2004.
Based on the John Galsworthy novels, the series chronicles a family's strife from the Victorian era through the 1920s, focused on possessive Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis, "Homeland") and his marriage to Irene (Gina McKee). Both seasons of this remake of an earlier (1969), made-for-TV telling of Galsworthy's story have been on DVD before individually but "The Forsyte Saga Collection" ($79.99, Acorn Media) marks the first time the two miniseries have been available in a single set.
There doesn't appear to be any newly added bonus features in this double pack than what was found in the individual season releases. Extras remain a 20-minute making-of featurette on season one, photo galleries and biographies. But for Anglophile TV viewers needing a fix until the third season of "Downton Abbey" comes around in January, "The Forsyte Saga Collection" will help fill the time nicely.
-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Dexter: The Sixth Season": The cable series starring Michael C. Hall gets better with each season.
• "Community: The Complete Third Season": Bonus material includes "A Glee-ful Community Christmas" feature.
• "Breathless": Texas Gothic tale starring Gina Gershon and Kelli Giddish.
• "Jaws": The Steven Spielberg film is now on Blu-ray.
• "Dance Moms: Season One": Lifetime series looks at the pursuit of the ultimate National Dance title.
• "The Smurfs and the Magic Flute": Animated film starring the real blue crew.
• "Titanic: 100 Years in 3D": Combines 3-D imagery of the wreck with stories of passengers and crew.
• "Suddenly Single": A love story starring Garcelle Beauvais.
• "Assassin's Bullet": Former FBI field agent (Christian Slater) investigates killings of high-priority terrorists.
• "Happy Endings: The Complete First & Second Seasons": Elisha Cuthbert stars in this ABC comedy.
• "American Pickers: Volume Four": Two antique hunters dig through homes and barns.
• "Pawn Stars: Season Five": Rick Harrison and crew deal with more buyers and sellers.
• "Glee: The Complete Third Season": Chris Colfer stars.
• "August": A look at love and intimacy in the modern world.
• "Stallone Collection": Includes "Rambo: First Blood," "Cop Land" and "Lock Up."
• "Vega$: The Third Season Volume 2": Robert Urich stars.
• "Kill List": An ex-soldier becomes a contract killer.
• "Tonight You're Mine": Two feuding rockers get handcuffed together.
• "Jay & Silent Bob Get Old": Jay and Silent Bob go to England.
• "Madness": A quiet weekend is ruined by a murderer.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapersmoviereviews